Category Archives: Uncategorized

Archives and typhoon damage in the Northern Mariana Islands

On Sunday August 2, 2015, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, was hit by Typhoon Soudelor with winds of up to 105 mph. There was massive damage particularly on the island of Saipan, home to the Northern Marianas College where the territorial archives is maintained. Christopher Todd, the territorial archivist, reports that the archives were largely undamaged by the storm, but roughly half of the Northern Marianas College has been completely destroyed. Saipan has not had running water or power for two weeks and it will likely be a month or more before these services are restored. In the meantime all staff are working full time for the American Red Cross emergency response team and trying to locate a generator to power the archives’ HVAC system before the records begin to deteriorate.

Colleagues from SAA and CoSA are in communication with Chris Todd, with FEMA contacts through CoSA’s Intergovernmental Preparedness for Essential Records project, and with colleagues from the West Coast and Pacific Islands to explore how the archival community can help address this situation.

We will continue to monitor this and share information as it becomes available.

Not-so-strange Encounters: Interact with SAA Leadership in Cleveland!

One of the concerns I’ve heard periodically over the past year of my presidency is that members feel disconnected from our organizational leadership. We’ve tried in a range of ways to address that from this blog, to presence on twitter and Facebook, and encouraging contact on specific issues. At the Annual Meeting in Cleveland, there several ways you can connect with me, with vice-president/president-elect Dennis Meissner, treasurer Mark Duffy, and will the member of Council. Think about taking advantage of one (or all) of the following opportunities:

1. Attend Council meetings: Council will meet to address a range of association business on Monday 8/17, 4 p.m.-8 p.m., Tuesday 8/18, 8 a.m.-12 noon, and Saturday 8/22 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. All these meeting are open to the membership—we are, after all, your elected governing body. Interested in what’s going on with educational program curriculae? Intellectual property? The Archives and Archivists listserv? Or maybe you just want to see my blinged-out gavel? Check the location and agenda items at You are truly and sincerely welcome to attend–if you feel more comfortable letting me know in advance, just hit me up on email at

2. Attend the Leadership Plenary on Friday 8/21 at 8:30 a.m. In keeping with “trying new approaches” we’ve decided to make what has been traditionally the Presidential Address plenary into a broader Leadership Plenary. This forum will be an opportunity for you to hear from president-elect Dennis Meissner about his thoughts and plans for the coming year, which I’m really excited about because it will bring “substance” to our work in advocacy and awareness. You will also, for perhaps the first time ever, hear from a representative of Council, Helen Wong Smith, to address an important initiative of that group focusing on cultural competency. And yes, I will still do a presidential address reflecting on “The Year of Living Dangerously for Archives.”

3. Town Hall with SAA Leaders. On Thursday 8/20 at 12:15 p.m., we will be reprising our lunchtime forum from last year. SAA officers, Executive Director, and representatives of Council will answer questions from attendees about how SAA works, how to get involved, or whatever is on your mind. Just stop in and let us know what’s on your mind.

4. Exhibit Hall Office Hours. Again on Thursday 8/20 at 5:15 p.m. SAA officers and Council members will hold “office hours” in the Exhibit Hall during the official “opening.” This is a great informal opportunity to engage with us one-on-one. Particularly for those of you who “took action” to raise awareness of and advocate for archives over the past year, I hope you’ll stop by and introduce yourselves to me…and I just might have something for you in return! (Think in shades of purple…)

Finally, you’ll find Council members attending the meetings of sections and roundtables for which they serve as liaisons, Dennis and I will be attending a number of those meetings to which we’ve been invited, and generally, we will all be around—at the All-Attendee Reception, in the coffee line, at sessions, and in the halls of the Convention Center.  Honestly, do come up and introduce yourself. You elected us, and we are honestly more than willing to talk with and listen to you.    And if you’re not coming to Cleveland (sigh), you know where to find me until August 22 (

We are hear because of you and for you–so interaction is highly encouraged!

The Year of Living Dangerously for Archives, Challenge #7: Ask Your Representative to Join the Congressional History Caucus

When we want to advocate for archives in Congress, it will certainly help if our members are aware of archives and why they are important. So here’s an opportunity to reach out to your member of Congress and ask him or her to join the Congressional History Caucus. This is not hard–you can do it! Don’t count on someone else writing—because they may be waiting for you to do it instead. So please, read the information on the SAA website at   and then contact your member of Congress.

I’ve done some time walking the halls and underground corridors of the various Congressional office buildings—and when we get time with staff or a member of Congress, it’s frustrating to spend the first part of that precious 10 or 15 minutes trying to explain what archives are and where archives and archivists exist in that member’s district. The more Congressional members hear from us, the more we become a “known” group of constituents.

The Congressional History Caucus is one way to get the name and idea of archives in front of our federal legislators, to raise their “awareness” of our value. Please use this opportunity to contact your Congressperson. It’s an easy ask—they don’t have to vote on money, challenging policies, or politically hot issues. They just have to sign on to become a member of the Caucus. Not hard at all for them, and if they know their constituents want it—well, even better.

But the bottom line is, as Wayne Gretsky used to say, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” You have to ask.   And don’t assume someone else will take care of making the contacts—because they are probably waiting for you to make the contact instead. It is honestly amazing how many issues people feel passionately about—but don’t take that very simple first step of contacting their member. Getting Congress to understand the value and importance of archives begins with us—each of us speaking up every chance we have to let them know who we are, and why the records we manage matter. So please, celebrate the return of Spring by helping to grow Congressional awareness of archives. We can do this!

Addressing Archival Issues: University of Oregon Records Release–and Beyond

In response to several member requests for SAA to consider commenting on the recent incident relating to the release of records at the University at Oregon, I sought advice from several groups, the Council discussed options, and we reached agreement on a response. For background on the issue and the Council’s response see

I’m gratified to hear from members when they think that SAA should make a statement or respond to a current situation, as well as their thoughts on what we do or don’t “say.” Each situation that emerges poses challenges when a response is requested on behalf of SAA rather than by individuals. In the two most recent cases—the acquisition by the University of Texas at Austin of the García Márquez papers and the University of Oregon records release incident—there has been considerable traffic via email, twitter, and Facebook. Members and other archival colleagues have written that “SAA ought to do something.” Continue reading

Who is an archivist? Letter to the Editor of USA Today

Yesterday an article in the USA Today online edition referred to a man who collected child pornography as an “archivist”. (note: content is challenging to read).
Dean DeBolt posted information on this to the Archives and Archivists listserv, and several members urged a response from SAA.  After quickly seeking advice on this, I prepared a brief letter to the editor focusing on what an archivist is and appropriate use of the term.   It was an opportunity to point out (in less than 180 words) what defines an archivist–and that is much more than being a “collector” of anything however laudable or objectionable.


I’ve submitted the letter, and am not sanguine about whether it will be published.  I also posted it in the “comments” section on the article, and it is showing up on Facebook comments.  For the future, perhaps having something on this order that has been discussed and developed with more time and attention would be a good thing to have in our “toolkit”.   Meanwhile, if you have other comments or thoughts, let me know.   Here is the brief statement I submitted:

Continue reading

Why I am an archivist

The fourth challenge in the “Year of Living Dangerously for Archives” brings the focus to each of you: Why are you an archivist?

In past months, the calls to action for the “Year of Living Dangerously for Archives” have focused on the value that others find in archives. Now it’s time to talk about the value WE see in what we do. Whether you came into this profession intentionally, by way of a related profession, or by some unforeseen path, there’s a reason why you’ve decided to stay or to pursue a degree. Please take a few minutes (now!) to think about why you’re an archivist–and share that with us.

I firmly believe in not asking people to do something I would not be willing to do myself, so let me start this conversation by telling you why I am an archivist. Mine is just one perspective, one answer for one person. I look forward to hearing your stories. Continue reading

Archives and Art: A Story from Detroit

The story of Detroit’s bankruptcy and the accompanying challenges has been in the news regularly for some time. My French-Canadian ancestors came across “détroit” (the straits) in the 1790s and generations of my family have been proud to call that city home—and when asked where I’m from, I still claim Detroit. I was fortunate to pursue my archival education at Wayne State University in the archival studies program led by Dr. Philip P. Mason. One of the great gifts for students at Wayne is the nearness of the Detroit Institute of Art, where we often would head on weekends or between classes to wander through the galleries. So I regularly read the articles about the bankruptcy, which included discussions of potentially selling off some or all of the astonishing collections of the DIA. Continue reading